Are Vitamin E Supplements As Effective As Natural Sources?
Vitamin E is a group of compounds that performs some vital functions in the body. It is a micronutrient, which means that it is required in minute quantity. It is readily available in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables. Cereals and other food that are fortified with vitamins also contain a good amount of Vitamin E. What are the functions of Vitamin E? The most vital function that Vitamin E performs is that of an antioxidant. To understand how important this function is for the body, it is necessary to understand how free radicals generated in the body affect the cells and the kind of damage they cause. Our bodies are made of cells which are further made up of molecules and atoms, and they are the building blocks of organs and tissues. These atoms and molecules have electrons which are negatively charged particles and based on the number of electrons in them they are either stable or unstable. Unstable particles by their very nature cannot remain in this state and attempt to gain or lose an electron to stabilise itself. To do so, it attacks the nearest stable molecule and steals an electron, in the process creating yet another unstable molecule, or free radical. This is a chain reaction which can have a cascading effect and over time leave the body with so many free radicals that the organs begin to show the effect and break down. This is where antioxidants help, as they are substances which can share their electrons with free radicals without becoming unstable themselves. They can neutralise the damage-causing free radicals and make them harmless. They are also known as free radical scavengers because of this property that they possess. Vitamin E is a very efficient antioxidant that can protect the body from the destructive effect of free radicals. It defends the cells in the body against oxidation and reduces oxidation of LDL cholesterol which causes the formation of plaques that blocks arteries. It helps widen blood vessels and lessens the chances of blood clotting. In this way, vitamin E protects us from cardiovascular diseases as well. - Vitamin E, along with vitamin C, is essential for a healthy immune system. An adequate intake of vitamins E and C together keeps the immune system fit to fight against germs and viruses, and helps prevent infections from bacteria and other pathogens. Vitamin E protects vitamins C and A, which are easily destructible, from being destroyed. - Vitamin E is required to produce red blood cells. It is needed by the body to utilise vitamin K, which is needed for normal blood clotting and synthesis of protein in plasma, bone and kidneys. - Vitamin E is needed by cells to communicate with each other while performing their functions. What is the daily requirement of Vitamin E? How much vitamin E is needed by a person depends on his or her age and gender. For children aged 0 months to 13 years, the recommended intake is between 4mg per day to 11mg per day. From the age of 14, and for pregnant women, the recommended allowance is 15mg per day. For lactating women, the amount increases to 19mg per day. The safest level of vitamin E for adults is 1500IU (international units) per day from natural sources or 1000IU per day from synthetic supplements. Click on the next page Natural sources of Vitamin E Vitamin E is present in adequate amounts in the following groups of food: 1. Vegetable oils from plants sources such as wheat germ, sunflower, corn and soya bean. 2. Nuts, such as almonds and peanuts. 3. Seeds, such as sunflower and sesame seeds. 4. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, mustard leaves and broccoli. 5. Fortified breakfast cereals, spreads and margarine. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. It should be consumed with food and some form of fat so that it can be fully utilised by the body. Deficiency of Vitamin E Vitamin E deficiency is caused mainly due to the inability to absorb fat by the body. This can result in neurological problems due to the impact on nerve communication that this deficiency can cause. Infants with low birth weight may also be deficient in vitamin E. There is no specific symptom of vitamin E deficiency, but if several of the symptoms mentioned below are noticed, then it could be due to lack of vitamin E and may need further investigation. In adults, the symptoms that can signify vitamin E deficiency are mild anaemia, nerve problems, reproduction and infertility problems, fragile red blood cells, age spots, cataracts, decrease in sex drive and muscle, liver and bone marrow abnormalities etc. Infants born prematurely may also have vitamin E deficiency because the mother transfers the vitamin to the infant only during the last stages of pregnancy. In children, the symptoms to look out for are liver disease causing neurological defects, lack of coordination in muscle movements, loss of the sense of position and vibration, muscle weakness, drooping upper lid and slow rate of growth. Are Vitamin E supplements as good as those from natural sources? Usually, in the case of vitamins, there is not much of a difference between natural and artificial form but this is not true in relation to vitamin E. In the case of vitamin E, natural is better than synthetic. The body absorbs and utilises vitamin E derived from natural sources better than vitamin E that is artificial and synthetic. The natural form of vitamin E contains only one isomer or compound. The synthetic form, however, consists of eight different isomer or compounds, of which only one is identical to the natural form. Since the natural form of vitamin E is assimilated by the body better, a much greater quantity of the synthetic vitamin E needs to be taken for the same benefits. Studies have also shown that some specific binding and transport proteins produced in the liver select only the natural form of vitamin E for utilisation and ignore the other forms. Vitamin E supplements available in the market contain vitamin E derived from natural sources as well as the synthetic form of vitamin E. So, if a vitamin E supplement has been prescribed, it makes perfect sense to choose one that has the vitamin derived from natural sources, which most often is soya bean oil. The way to distinguish between the natural and synthetic form of vitamin E in supplements is by checking the ingredients or chemical formula. The natural form is labelled as d-alpha tocopherol whereas the synthetic form is labelled dl-alpha tocopherol. Do we need vitamin E supplements? This is a question that your doctor will be best able to answer. If someone gets proper balanced nutrition with an adequate amount of fat, then there should be enough vitamin E available through diet. However, if a low-fat diet is being followed, there is a chance of vitamin E deficiency. If you feel that there could be a chance that you are suffering from a lack of vitamin E in the diet, or you have some of the symptoms mentioned above then you should consult your doctor who can ask for a blood test and prescribe vitamin E supplements if necessary. Excess of vitamin E should be avoided as it can cause bleeding in the brain, especially if you are on blood thinners, and may also increase the risk of birth defects. External use of vitamin E A discussion on the uses and effects of vitamin E will not be complete without mentioning its use in enhancing the health of our skin and hair. As an antioxidant, vitamin E has an important role to play in keeping us from ageing fast. Internally, it works by neutralising free radicals and thus keeping them from attacking the organs and brain. External application of vitamin E oil can also help keep our skin from ageing because of sun damage and pollution. Similarly, it protects hair and keeps it healthy when used directly on the hair. Vitamin E capsules are the only source for external use. Conclusion In conclusion to the discussion on whether vitamin E supplements are as effective as natural sources, it can be said that the natural form of vitamin E is better suited for performing the functions that it does in the human body. When an adequate amount of vitamin E is not available from dietary sources then it must be supplemented externally. In such cases, a supplement derived from a natural source is better than the synthetic form. Download the Grow Fit app on Google Play or App Store today for a free consultation with our specialists.
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